Small business grants for disabled people

Written by robin devereaux
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Small business grants for disabled people
Start-Up funds for individuals with disabilities ("Out of Office" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: EverJean (Everjean) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

Supported self-employment can be the most direct route to social and economic empowerment for individuals with disabilities. Supported self-employment means small business development and ownership that is supported from its "dream" stage to fruition by a support team. Developing entrepreneurial opportunities that support disabled individuals who have precarious opportunities in the job market can help them achieve levels of self-sufficiency they have never before experienced.

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Using a plan for achieving self-support

At one time, start-up funds for new businesses were available through federal and state grants, and Small Business Associations (SBAs). Dwindling funding on a national level has forced new entrepreneurs to find creative ways to fund new businesses. This is even more challenging for an individual with a disability.

Many individuals with disabilities receive Social Security Disability benefits, SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and/or SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). Individuals receiving these benefits who want to start their own business may qualify for a PASS or Plan for Achieving Self-Support. A PASS is a work incentive developed by the Social Security Administration that allows disabled individuals to set aside a portion of their benefits and save them to use for business purposes, like purchasing equipment or transportation.

Small business grants for disabled people
Start-Up funds for individuals with disabilities ("Out of Office" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: EverJean (Everjean) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

Using a plan for achieving self-support

At one time, start-up funds for new businesses were available through federal and state grants, and Small Business Associations (SBAs). Dwindling funding on a national level has forced new entrepreneurs to find creative ways to fund new businesses. This is even more challenging for an individual with a disability.

Many individuals with disabilities receive Social Security Disability benefits, SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and/or SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). Individuals receiving these benefits who want to start their own business may qualify for a PASS or Plan for Achieving Self-Support. A PASS is a work incentive developed by the Social Security Administration that allows disabled individuals to set aside a portion of their benefits and save them to use for business purposes, like purchasing equipment or transportation.

There are no guarantees

Grants for individuals starting entrepreneurships are nearly nonexistent. Beware of those advertising "free" money from the government for cars, rent, homes and business start-ups. There is no such thing. Also beware of grant writers who promise to get you grant money. Receiving grant funding is entirely dependent on the decision of the funder. It is a grant writer's job to draft the grant, but as far as receiving funding is concerned, there are no guarantees.

Form a group

The best way for individuals with disabilities to acquire funds to start their own business is to form a group of new entrepreneurs and partner with a local rehabilitation or habilitation centre to apply for the funding. It is much easier for a non-profit organisation to secure grant funds. Additionally, most non-profit have a grant-writing specialist on their team who has the expertise necessary to get funding.

Set up an IDA account

When funding is acquired, set up an IDA account. An IDA, or Individual Development Account, is a special savings account in which participants are able to obtain a dollar or more in matching funds for every dollar saved toward their entrepreneurial venture. In the past, banks used IDAs to help low-income families and individuals to purchase homes, pay for education and to start small businesses. Your group can set up a programme in which participants could to receive a money-for-money match toward the start of their small business. As their businesses become viable, they pay back the IDA match money in installments, replenishing the business start-up fund for others with disabilities who want to start their own businesses.

Go Local

Local foundations, especially those focused on economic development, are supportive of IDA programmes that assist individuals with disabilities to start new businesses. Speak to your local Chamber of Commerce, Business Development Board, and community foundation to see what types of grants are available locally. Going to your local resources first are your best bet. Local organisations may ask you to give a presentation about your group or the type of business you want to start in the community. Your Chamber of Commerce or similar organisation is also an excellent resource for networking with other business people in the community, and the relationships you develop can be your greatest resource when starting your new business.

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